Walking. And thinking about walking. And reading about walking.
Writing about walking seems to be a major preoccupation nowadays, as it has been at different times in the past. Interestingly, a lot of the current writing about walking is also about the literature of walking – the mapping of places and movement with words.
Of course, writing about walking is also writing about place and particularly landscape, and is a form of memoir, and so it is often about the intersections of self and landscape (or cityscape) and movement and memory.
I’ve been thinking about all this as part of my eternal Sublime project on travel, pilgrimage and place. But it’s all still very misty in my mind. You know that feeling when there are outlines just visible in the distance and you’re not quite sure how to draw them together? Just me?
Luckily, it also some of the best writing around at the moment.
Here’s what I’ve been reading:
Wanderlust, by Rebecca Solnit, whose A Field Guide to Getting Lost is also brilliant. A blend of memoir, reflection, politics, literary studies and the history of walking for recreation and well-being – that is, walking by choice rather than as the only means of transport.
When you give yourself to places, they give you yourself back; the more one comes to know them, the more one seeds them with the invisible crop of memories and associations that will be waiting for you when you come back, while new places offer up new thoughts, new possibilities. Exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains.
– Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust
The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot and Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane – beautiful, lyrical and thoughtful writing on landscape, language and the paths we create.
The Moor: Lives, Landscape and Literature, by William Atkins, which I bought one day walking around London and thinking about the English landscape in particular, and the culture of walking in the countryside. (After I’d just walked along Hadrian’s Wall.)
Right now, I’m reading Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place by Philip Marsden, which is about exploring the sacred nature of places, mostly on foot and through story.
The compact between writing and walking is almost as old as literature – a walk is only a step away from a story, and every path tells.
– Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways